2011 Massachusetts Survey

Large majorities of the residents of Florida, Maine and Massachusetts believe the Earth has been getting warmer gradually over the last 100 years (81 percent, 78 percent and 84 percent, respectively), and large majorities favor government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to July 2010 public opinion research by Professor Jon Krosnick, a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. 

Majority believe warming due to human activity

Following up on a national survey done in June, Krosnick and his team conducted in-depth polling between July 9 and 18 in the three states. Mirroring the national survey, the statewide research conducted in July shows that very large majorities think that if the world has been warming, it has been due primarily or at least partly to "things people do" - 72 percent in Florida, 76 percent in Maine and 80 percent in Massachusetts compared to 75 percent nationally. 

"The three states resemble one another and the nation, in that large majorities believe that global warming has been happening, is human caused, will be problematic and should be addressed by government," wrote Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford, and Stanford researcher Ana Villar. 

In a September 2010 analysis, the researchers also found that public opinion in two states, Florida and Massachusetts, has not changed much over the last five years. There was insufficient polling data from Maine between 2006 and 2010 to determine any trends in that state. 

Democrats and Independents are likely to back candidates who propose action on global warming

The July 2010 Florida, Maine and Massachusetts surveys also included an experiment to assess the impact of hearing a hypothetical policy statement on global warming from a U.S. Senate candidate. In that statement, the candidate acknowledges the existence of global warming and the need to implement solutions. After hearing the statement, respondents were asked if they would vote for or against the candidate. 

Respondents in all three states indicated that they were more likely to vote for a candidate who gave a public statement supporting action to combat climate change than one who did not. However, there were differences based on party affiliation between respondents who heard the global warming statement versus those who did not hear it. Democrats were 25 percent more likely to vote for a candidate who made a statement on global warming, Independents were 14 percent more likely but Republicans showed no significant preference. 

"These results suggest that the impact of the hypothetical statement on voter intentions was greatest among Democrats, less among Independents and non-existent among Republicans," the authors said. Details of the voter-simulation experiment can be found in the survey analysis

Limit greenhouse gasses from U.S. businesses

The new research also shows that majorities of residents in these states - 74 percent of Floridians, 77 percent of Maine residents and 77 percent of Massachusetts residents - think the U.S. government should take action to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by businesses. Of those supporting such federal action, 74 percent or more of the respondents from each state thought this should start "right away."

Negative economic impacts unlikely

Most respondents said that implementing programs to reduce global warming in the future was unlikely to have a negative effect on their state economy or the national economy. When asked about the effects that ameliorative measures might have on the national economy, only 22 percent of Floridians, 22 percent of Maine residents and 17 percent of Massachusetts residents said that the economy would suffer. Additionally, few people thought that the number of jobs would be reduced by ameliorative efforts, with no more than 20 percent of the respondents in each state thinking that there would be fewer jobs in either their home state or nationwide as a result of the "United States doing things to reduce global warming in the future." 

"This result contradicts the claim that most residents of these states believe that climate change legislation will be a jobs-killer," Krosnick said. 

Support for cap-and-trade

When presented with a brief description of a "cap-and-trade" permit trading system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by businesses, majorities of respondents favored implementing the system. The largest proportions of respondents in favor of cap-and-trade were found in Massachusetts (77 percent favor) and Maine (72 percent), followed closely by Florida (68 percent). These numbers are on par with the national survey conducted in June, which showed that 74 percent of all Americans favor a cap-and-trade system. 

Willingness to pay

Krosnick's research also revealed that more than half of the respondents in the three states would vote for a law to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050, if the cost to their household would be a $150 tax increase per year. And even more said they favored a law to accomplish emissions reduction at an annual cost to them of $100 (66 percent in Massachusetts, 62 percent in Maine and 60 percent in Florida). 

This result is relevant in light of a recent Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the economic impact of the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act to address greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA estimated that the cost per U.S. household would be between $79 and $146 if the act were implemented. 

"Our survey results suggest that many residents of these states are willing to pay real money to make significant progress in emissions reduction along the lines that legislators have been considering," Krosnick said. 

The new state surveys were conducted with funding from the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford, whose mission is to provide third-party non-advocacy research to inform public policy. The survey results are based on telephone interviews conducted July 9-18 with 600 randomly selected adults from each of the three states. These state surveys are follow-up research to a national survey Krosnick conducted in June that found similar results.